CLASS 4A DIVISION I

Region II Championship Game

Kennedale Wildcats (10-3)

vs.

Van Vandals (12-1)

7:30 p.m. Friday
Ford Center at The Star, Frisco

Coaches

  • Kennedale: Richard Barett
  • Van: Jared Moffatt
Last week

Next week
  • Winner faces Abilene Wylie or Levelland, Class 4A Division I state semifinal round
Playmakers

Kennedale

  • LB Baron Browining, Sr., 6-4, 230 (71 tackles, 10 for loss, 3 sacks, 4 forced fumbles; consensus five-star recruit)
  • RB De'shaun Kirven, Soph., 5-7, 166 (208 carries, 1,745 yards, 22 TDs)
  • RB Jaden Knowles, Jr., 5-8, 175 (175 carries, 1,395 yards, 11 TDs)
  • QB Evan Jowers, Soph., 6-0, 180 (23 of 52, 331 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 68 carries, 617 rushing yards, 9 rushing TDs)

Van

  • QB Garrett Moseley, Jr., 5-11, 175 (158 of 251, 2,565 yards, 38 TDs, 4 INTs, 227 carries, 1,674 rushing yards, 20 rushing TDs)
  • DB/RB Cooper Bledsoe, Sr., 6-0, 175 (164 tackles, 9 INTs)
  • LB Sam Reeves, Sr., 5-11, 220 (143 tackles)
  • WR Isaiah Allred, Sr., 6-3, 195 (59 catches, 1,124 yards, 16 TDs)
  • WR/DB Connor Houston, Sr., 5-11, 175 (56 catches, 840 yards, 8 TDs)
  • OL Caleb York, Sr., 5-9, 235
Just the facts
  • Van will be the third East Texas team to play at the less than one-year-old Dallas Cowboys headquarters, known as "The Star." It follows Pleasant Grove and Mount Pleasant in its appearance in Frisco.
  • The Ford Center -- a Dallas Cowboys indoor training facility by day and a 12,000-seat Frisco I.S.D. football stadium by night -- was a big chunk of the facility's $1.5 billion price tag. Even with inflation considered, the campus cost more to build than the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium.
  • Kennedale got over the hump last week for a regional championship game appearance after close calls in 2014 and 2015. Arygle, en route to state championship games both times, knocked it out of the postseason in the third round.
  • Kennedale was Athens' problem in 2014 and 2015. Van's district mate fell in consecutive years to the upcoming opponent in the second round of the postseason.
  • You name a school, odds are it has offered Kennedale linebacker Baron Browning. Alabama, currently ranked first in the country at the NCAA Division I FBS level, headlines the college programs that want the consensus five-star prospect.
  • Kennedale could be a big problem for teams in upcoming seasons. The key players on offense -- an offense that has driven the length of more than 47 football fields this season on the ground -- are all underclassmen.
Van's Cooper Bledsoe (12) is East Texas' second-leading active tackler and the region's leader in interceptions.

Key matchup: Van's run defense versus Kennedale's ground game.

Kennedale's offense is as run-oriented as it gets. The team has signaled in 591 run play calls this season to 65 pass attempts. The team runs 89 percent of the time, and 92 percent of its total offensive output has come on the ground.

 

But if Kennedale's offense at large was so simple to stop, there's no way it would be one of the final eight teams alive in Class 4A Division I. Its running game is the real deal, as Mineral Wells and Terrell can testify.

In fact, Kennedale defeated Terrell twice this season. Terrell handed Van its only loss of the campaign whereas the Vandals and Kennedale both made quick work of Mineral Wells.

Kennedale mostly utilizes the Wing-T offensive formation to get the most out of the run. Think of it as a wall of seven to eight players playing Red Rover, moving forward together to sweep defenders out of the ball carrier's path.

The conventional way to defend against the Wing-T is by lining up a majority of the defensive players unusually close to the line of scrimmage. The defenders colliding with the blockers creates a mass of humanity and only small holes for the running backs to get through.

But playing that way defensively makes a team susceptible to giving up a surprise pass.

Van's Tristan Gentry hurries Mineral Well's quarterback Tristan Perry's in the Vandals' second-round playoff victory.

If Van does not take Kennedale's bait and wants to defend all aspects equally -- playing this way would make it harder for Kennedale to guess the weak points of the defense on any given play -- then the Vandals will have to rely on sure tackling at each position. The defenders would be covering more ground against more blockers than if they were stacked closer together.

You'll probably see the Vandals play both conventionally against the Wing-T and their basic defense at certain points in the game.

Keep the magic number of three in mind while watching Friday's contest.

If you see three Van defenders unattached to blockers in the vicinity one of two 1,000-yard running backs are heading toward, there's a great chance the Vandals will hold Kennedale to a bad to mediocre gain versus a big one.

The first defender should stop the closest blocker from progressing up the field by colliding with them. The second defender should be in good position to make the tackle. The third defender should be in position to finish the tackle if the running back survives the initial collision.

Good tackling will conquer all. The more players around the ball carrier, and the quicker they can get there, the merrier.

Van didn't do a very good job of defending Paris' run game up the middle last week until making adjustments just before the third Paris drive of the game. Expect Kennedale to consistently try the middle running lanes before branching out to attack the sides of the defense.

The Vandals' best defense in the long run might be their offense. Teams like Kennedale aren't built to overcome multiple-possession deficits because they burn the clock they need with an offense designed nearly exclusively for positive yardage on the ground.

 

Don't be surprised if: Van's passing game takes center stage against one of the state's best defenders.

The best way to avoid a consensus five-star college linebacker prospect, like Kennedale's Baron Browning, is to simply reduce his role in the contest. A successful passing game would make Browning either a pass rusher or obligate him to worry about an opposing Van receiver around in the middle of the field.

With Browning running off to defend a receiver or tangled against the offensive line, that might be the time to improvise a run with dual-threat quarterback Garrett Moseley.

Van quarterback Garrett Moseley strolls in for his first of two rushing touchdowns in a 54-7 win against Mineral Wells.